Sorry. I think I can do better about the title but the chiles have taken hold and I am a little giddy. After two trips to Oaxaca, a total of five weeks there so far and the prospect of another sixty days, starting today, I am more then a little giddy. Pasillas, guajillo, costeno, pulla, arbol, dance around my head as I lay in bed, like little fever dreams, hot and daring me, challenging me. Really it’s that intense.
To try and settle in, I want to talk about moles, and the chiles I have become attached to and the possibilities there of.
First thing about moles, it’s like sunday tomato-meat sauce in Italian American neighborhoods. Everyone has a different approach and everyone has the best approach and everyone makes the best sauce. It’s all true you know. The seven moles of Oaxaca is really the several moles or even the seven hundred moles. There can be just a few ingredients and a few hours or a fistful of ingredients and a day’s work. This is not to say the results are the same but every result is valid and every results walks you down that ole mole road to a satisfying and suprisingly deep experience.
Here is a mole inspired chile paste
- 3 to 4 dried chilpoltes
- 10 – 12 costenos chiles
- 5 – 6 guajillos chiles
- 1/4 inch stick canela
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds, toasted, then ground in a spice or coffee grinder
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
Pre heat oven to 250 degrees. Seed the chiles and lay them out on an 18 inch baking sheet or sheet pan. Toast the chiles in the oven for 5 – 10 minutes. Be very careful not to burn the chiles. You are just looking for a little richness of color and a potent intoxicating chile aroma. Remove from oven and break chiles into a 4 cup pyrex measuring cup or some such vessel. Soak the chiles in boiling water for an hour or two. Drain almost all the liquid. Add the spices and the garlic and salt. Using a hand blender. make a smooth, thick paste out of the chiles and the spices.
You can use the soaking liquid to make a picante rice. The canela bears some discussion but i need to get the details from a book I currently do not have.
Here is a variation on Frijoles Borrachos, with the spicing insiration taken from mole and made into a chile paste.
- 2 cups dry red beans
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 2 medium red onions, chopped
- 2 tablespoons corn or peanut oil
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 bottle brown ale
- 4 tablespoons white vinegar
- 1 cup chili paste (see above)
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
Soak the beans overnight. Drain and rinse them well. In a 4 quart dutch oven, saute the onion in the oil over medium-high heat until clear, 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add the chili paste and cumin and cook about 10 minutes, until the cumin smell is covered by the chili smell. Add the vinegar and cook another minute. Add the beer, the sugar and the broth and bring to a simmer. Add the beans, bring everything to a simmer, then cover well and cook over low heat for 3 hours or until the beans are soft to the bite. If you think additional liquid is needed, add more beer. Finish the dish by seasoning with salt and pepper to taste and garnishing with chopped scallions. Keeps up to a week, covered and refrigerated. Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish.
Here’s a interesting sidenote. As I read more and more mole recipe, the various requirements for raisen, nuts and seeds made me think of trail mix. A quick perusal of the local grocery store produce a package of trailmix that had just about the right mixture and proportions with the exception of some cashews. which i dutifully seperated out of the mix and then ate.